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Amid growing risk of a Greek exit, the euro zone has yet to face up to the task of saving the single currency itself
 See for the full text  The Economist  –   May 12th 2012 | from the print edition

Jerry Mager May 17th, 2012  

 If only Achilles showed the eurozone his heels! This time the wrath of Achilles’s however could come upon us in quite a different shape and quality than it does in the Iliad. The contagion from a Greek exit would be mainly a psychological one and not primarily of an economic nature.
The worst thing to happen for the eurocrats would be Greece leaving the euro without the world coming to a horrible end. If this happens the intimidating narrative would have lost its power and other countries might start questioning if the ‘austere’ course is really inevitable and necessary and whose interests are really being catered to by Mr Barosso, Mrs Merkel, the Mssrs Draghi, Monti, Papademos (the Magi from Goldman Sachs ) and the other austerity fundamentalists.
As even president Obama’s changes of re- election are dragged into the discourse it seems apt to quote Paul Krugman on austerity in the New York Review of Books of May the 24th page 14: “Assessing the effects of austerity … requires painstaking examination of the actual legislation used to implement that austerity. Fortunately, researchers at the International Monetary Fund have done the legwork, identifying no fewer than 173 cases of fiscal austerity in advanced countries over the period between 1978 and 2009. And what they found was that austerity policies were followed by economic contraction and higher unemployment.” According to Krugman – who here is talking about the US, but nevertheless … – “The depression we’re in is essentially gratuitous: we don’t need to be suffering so much pain and destroying so many lives ….. all we need is to reverse the austerity policies of the past couple of years and temporarily boost spending ….. Keynes wrote that ‘the boom, not the slump, is the time for austerity’.” See http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/may/24/how-end-depression/
In the case of eurozone the face saving ploy could be a quiet emphasis on ‘growth’ while trumpeting ‘austerity’ at the same time.

The Greeks have the edge on us by being battle hardened by now, they more or less got used to hardship and have learned how to adapt and make the best of it. On the other hand they have little to lose, little good to expect from the other eurozone members nor from the future with or without austerity measures.

Let me end with quoting from Marshall Sahlins’s Stone Age Economics’ (Ch. 1, The Original Affluent Society): “By the common understanding, an affluent society is one in which all the people’s material wants are easily satisfied. … there are two possible courses to affluence. Wants may be ‘easily satisfied’ either by producing much or desiring little. The familiar conception, the Galbraithean way, makes assumptions peculiarly appropriate to market economies: that man’s wants are great, not to say infinite, whereas his means are limited, although improvable: thus the gap between means and ends can be narrowed by industrial productivity …… But there also is a Zen road to affluence, departing from premises somewhat different from our own: that human material wants are finite and few, and technical means unchanging but on the whole adequate. Adopting the Zen strategy, a people can enjoy an unparalleled material plenty – with a low standard of living.”
Most Greeks may not be familiar with Zen but let’s not forget that Zeno of Citium was the founder of Stoicism and from Zeno to Zen may prove not so great a step altogether.
The question here seems to be whether the eurocrats are prepared to reframe their austerity approach and adept their narrative to reality in order to make reality comply.

LINKS

http://www.niburunews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1282:goldman-sachs-and-europes-inside-job&catid=19:finance&Itemid=38

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